The events of June 16, 1976 in the now Republic of South Africa led to the declaration of youth day or day of the African child. In heritage literature these are now synonymous with heritage that hurts or dark heritage. Interpretation of heritage that hurts (Uzzel and Ballantyne 2008; Sather-Wagstaff 2011; Muringaniza 2002) or dark heritage (McAtackney 2014; Stone 2006) has become a topic of research in most academic literature, with heritages such as those of the holocaust in German history (Bergmann and Jucovy 1982; Young 1990).
June 16 is a day that is remembered mainly through the lens of apartheid regime where most youths were killed in hundreds while fighting for seemingly small but significant civil liberties at the time, such as recognition of one’s language, association with one’s correct history, and the freedom to express poilitical and economic dissatisfaction where necessary. The film, Sarafina (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarafina!_(film), captured the youth experience at the time.
In retrospect, one wonders how these events and their resultant political and economic turnovers are expressed or interpreted in the present. Where does the centre of interpretation lie, two decades post the independence that they 1976 youths wanted so bad to gain human acceptance?
Heritage interpretation is a topic that Africa’s evolving democracies need to engage with quite often. In instances such as those leading to the declaration of day of the African child, how can the day be celebrated in such a way that it encompasses memory as well as progress without opening new wounds or without dismissing (in a desperate need for homogeneous peace), the struggles that made it possible for the civil liberties to be availed to the broader public?
In terms of heritage interpretation, is it interpreted in general as a subset of the apartheid system? Does interpretation heap focus on black youths against others? How do we incorporate interpretation elements that give the youth of today a reason to move forward with the knowledge, rather than to get stuck with the pain that comes with the events? These are key issues in heritage interpretation that need to be reflected on while remembering this special day.
Read more on the weblink below chronicling the Soweto youth uprising in the Republic of South Africa on June 16, 1976 that resulted to the declaration of the day of the African child: